Review – Never Trust A Valet (“Bad Samaritan”)

Looks like Doctor Who regenerated into an evil, twisted monster in this tale of a robbery gone bad and the efforts of one man trying to do good, all brought to you by the man who gave us the ultra-ridiculous movie Geostorm last year. Well, at least this film hasn’t any bad weather in it!

*

After seeing this movie, you’ll think twice about leaving your car with a parking valet! That’s because two buddies who operate a valet service outside a fancy Italian eatery in Portland, Oregon have come up with a clever, albeit dangerous little burglary con. While you’re inside dining, they’re driving to your home and ripping you off, and you have no idea it’s happening. Derek Sandoval (Carlito Oliverto) heads up this tiny crime syndicate with bestie Sean Falco (Irishman Robert Sheehan), who’s also a budding photographer and has a lovely girlfriend (Jacqueline Byers). But everything changes when a super-hot Maserati drives up with a control-freak and really nasty piece-of-work inside named  Cale Erendreich (David Tennant).

Faster than you can say, “home burglary”, Sean is off to steal from Cale, but makes a startling discovery once inside his palatial estate… he’s got a young women tied up and bound in a secret room! And this ain’t no “Fifty Shades of Grey” kinda tied up neither! Freaking out, Sean is torn between telling the police or just leaving well enough alone, which is the sage advice Derek gives him. Sean, however, being the ultimate ‘nice guy’, can’t stand the nagging guilt (must be Catholic, I’m guessing) and goes to the police AND the FBI who, naturally, don’t believe him.

Things go from bad to worse when Cale, a lethal techno-genius (he’d make a great super-villain), uses the internet and social media to systematically ruin Sean’s life bit by bit, while still carrying out his own personal nefarious deeds with that kidnapped girl (Kerry Condon) he’s got locked up. Sean goes after Cale in your standard third act finale show-down that is both preposterous and a bit of a let-down, considering it went through all the trouble of building a crucible of a ending, then cheapening it with some flavorless trope you’ve seen before.

Written by sometime actor Brandon Boyce (the forgettable Apt Pupil and Wicker Park), this screenplay has your standard movie tropes and plot holes all over the place, but it does have two things going for it: director Dean Devlin and the lead actors. Devlin, while not a striking force in Hollywood films (he does mostly TV shows like The Librarians and Leverage), really shows a flair for cinematic directing with some impressive camera techniques. It’s a shame his last movie was the laughably awful Geostorm, which he also co-wrote.

Another bonus point are the actors, starting with former Dr. Who favorite, David Tennant, and his 1000-yard frighting glare. This guy can act just with his eyes alone, let alone deliver lines with oozing depravity. Then you got Sheenah who carries the movie with a solid performance; why isn’t this guy in more films? Even Oliverto and Byers are in fine form here in a movie that, aside from a plot that meanders here and there to get to the rather odd conclusion (it reminded me of a Blacklist TV episode), it could have been SO much better.                                      

  
Don’t Breathe (2016)
*
 
Breaking into others people’s houses really isn’t a good idea. Aside from burglar alarms or nasty dogs, you can run into all sorts of trouble, like blind old men who have a secret locked up in their basement. Uruguay filmmaker Fede Alvarez, who did a horrific blood-bath remake of Evil Dead, decided to tone it down and just go for shock value.
 
In the heart of run-down Detroit are three punks: Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto). These millennials eek out a living by breaking into houses secured by Alex’s father’s home security company, and then selling the items they steal. However, the fenced goods aren’t enough fund Rocky’s dream of moving to California with her little sister, Diddy (Emma Bercovici) and escaping their abusive mother and her alcoholic boyfriend. Money receives a tip that their next house, owned by some old helpless blind guy, has $300K stashed away inside!
 
After casing the home, the trio drug the guys dog and enter his home. Unable to find any cash anywhere, Money sets off a sleeping gas bomb in the room of the old man (aka Norman Nordstrom–played by Stephan Lang), so they can open a locked basement door. BUT! The noise wakes up Norman, who promptly attacks and kills Money with his own gun! Terrified, Rocky hides in a closet, where she witnesses Norman open a safe to check on his $300K. After he leaves, she steals all the cash, however by this time Norman realizes that he’s not alone. Uh-oh!
 
Rocky and Alex flee a rampaging Norman to the basement only to find (what the… ??)    a restrained and gagged woman (Franciska Törőcsik) in a homemade padded cell! Desperate, she shows them a newspaper article about a car accident and they realize that she is Cindy Roberts, a rich young woman held captive by Norman. After they free her, Cindy is accidentally shot and killed by Norman. Chaos ensues with Norman going bat-spit crazy, trying his best to kill Rock and Alex while the two do their best to survive and fight back. One thing is for sure, this old blind man is not only vicious, tenacious, and crazy, but unkillable!
 
Things exponentially get worse with Norman’s ravenous pit-bull dog entering the fray, Alex and Rocky trying to escape this madhouse, and Norman capturing Rocky to artificially inseminate her! Yikes! The ending is a whirlwind of unceasing, unbelievable, implausible, and LOL escapes from near-death for both Rocky and Norman. No human being could possibly live through their near-fatal shenanigans and fights. Still, you gotta hand it to writer/director Fede Alvarez; the man knows his stuff. Although the set-up and punch-line are hokey and rather standard, it’s in his delivery and filmmaking that sets this movie above the rest.
 
Alvarez doesn’t rely on cheats to “improve” his movie using smash-edits, jump-cuts, slo-mo’s, and other camera effects. It’s brutally shot and his pacing ratchets-up the tension as the film progresses. Steven Lang as the “victim” is both savage and heart-breaking, a tricky combination to pull-off, while Levy is excellent as the heroine turned fighter. One thing that bothered me was the redundant and over-used “not quite the ending” finale, where it’s ambiguous if a sequel is possible or not. This movie doesn’t NEED or REQUIRES a sequel! 
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